Inquiries have revealed that it is not just Civil Service cars blocking forecourts which could be used for public art exhibitions, pavement cafes and promenades. The forecourts are used by journalists, lawyers, policemen, tax inspectors and even art teachers.
Horse Guards Parade, which an expert committee headed by Dame Jennifer Jenkins said a year ago should be cleared of cars to open a vista between Whitehall and St James's Park, is used as a daily car park by more than 200 senior civil servants from several government departments, but also by journalists who work as lobby correspondents in Parliament, staff from the Metropolitan Police headquarters, from the European Commission and the National Consumer Council. These people already have to make alternative arrangements for the four weeks a year that the site is cleared of cars for rehearsals of Trooping the Colour.
Car park passes are issued by the chief executive of the Royal Parks Agency, David Welch. He is on holiday, but the agency said it had started talks with the relevant Civil Service departments and these would continue on Mr Welch's return.
The Jenkins committee also wanted to free Horse Guards Road from regular traffic in order to link the parade ground and the park for visitors to London and walkers. This was how the area used to look, and how it features in a Canaletto painting.
At the Courtauld Institute Galleries, the director John Murdoch has complained about the use of the forecourt at Somerset House, off the Strand, for parking by staff from the Inland Revenue. Lawyers visiting the Lord Chancellor's office are also allowed to park there 'if they have heavy brief-cases containing large briefs'. Other parking permits are given to staff teaching art history at the Courtauld Institute, which runs the galleries.
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